Ransom Notes from an 1874 Kidnapping


“Mr. Ros, be not uneasy, you son charley bruster be all writ we is got him and no powers on earth can deliver out of our hand.”

On July 1, 1874, two Ross sons were taken from their family’s front lawn in Germantown, a northwest Philadelphia neighborhood. The kidnappers released Walter, age 5, for reasons unclear. When Charley failed to return home by nightfall, Christian Ross feared the worst.

The second came five days later, stating the ransom amount: “This is the lever that moved the rock that hides him from yu $20,000. Not one doler les—impossible—impossible—you cannot get him without it.” (The sum of $20,000 in 1874 was the equivalent of about $400,000 today.)


The search lasted five months, during which the kidnappers wrote 23 letters. (Christian Ross’s memoir contains the text of every letter except for one: number 5. He does not mention why.

In December 1874, the two suspects died of gunshot wounds after a failed robbery attempt on Long Island. As he lay wounded in front of witnesses, Douglas confessed that he and Mosher had kidnapped Charley Ross—and then died before saying anything more.

Charley Ross never returned home.

Via Smithsonian.

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About Heretic

I design video games for a living, write fiction, political theory and poetry for personal amusement, and train regularly in Western European 16th century swordwork. On frequent occasion I have been known to hunt for and explore abandoned graveyards, train tunnels and other interesting places wherever I may find them, but there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that I am preparing to set off a zombie apocalypse. Nothing that will stand up in court, at least. I use paranthesis with distressing frequency, have a deep passion for history, anthropology and sociological theory, and really, really, really hate mayonnaise. But I wash my hands after the writing. Promise.

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